Sgt. Ryan Russell put his life on the line in defence of his community, a sombre Chief Bill Blair said.
“Today we will grieve the loss of one of our officers,” Blair said, in front of dozens of members of the media at a press conference in the lobby of police headquarters Wednesday afternoon.
“A hero of the Toronto Police Service, who went out this morning to do his job and, in doing his job, gave his life. And that is a tragedy for all of us and something we will all mourn.”
Blair said Russell was struck by a stolen vehicle in the area of Avenue and Davenport Rds., later succumbing to those injuries at hospital. The vehicle had been taken from the area of Dundas and Parliament Sts.
“The murder of Sgt. Russell is being investigated by the Toronto Homicide Squad and we are very grateful for the support and information that many citizens are coming forward with, to assist us in the investigation,” Blair said.
The Chief said the stolen vehicle went on to be involved in several collisions before Emergency Task Force officers were able to apprehend a suspect in the area of Humberside Ave. and Keele St.
The suspect is in custody and being treated for injuries, including at least one gunshot wound.
The Special Investigation Unit (SIU) is investigating the arrest, so the Chief did not reveal any more details into how the suspect was arrested or injured.
“This is a very dangerous situation and it was a very challenging thing to get this vehicle stopped and there were several collisions that occurred throughout the city and it is my understanding that there was a collision immediately preceding the suspect being apprehended.
Chief Bill Blair said it was a heart-wrenching task speaking with Russell’s family, including his wife, Christine, and his father, Glen, a retired Toronto police officer.
“I went to hospital this morning and had the difficult responsibility of telling his young wife and the mother of his young son he had died in the line of duty and he had made the ultimate sacrifice on behalf of his city,” Blair said.
The Chief spoke beside a framed picture of Russell near a book of condolence for the new 52 Division sergeant.
“Officers from across the city came to the hospital wanting to show their respect, wanting to provide their support.”
The Chief said the officers, whom Russell supervised for the last six months at 52 Division A platoon, had enormous respect for their new sergeant.
“He really made a strong impression upon them and are mourning that loss today,” Blair said.
Colleagues of Russell, and those officers involved in the incidents surrounding his death, are being supported by the Critical Incident Response Team. The team is made up of both civilian and uniform members. Two Toronto police psychologists have also been deployed to support officers.
“We’re providing people with as much support as we can at a very difficult time,” the Chief said.
He said that policing families are also in need of support.
“I know today, when it first went across the radio or on the news that a police officer had been badly hurt, that for at least 6,000 police families in this city their hearts skipped a beat. And everybody quickly thought where was my loved one,” Blair said.
“There is very little comfort that ours is safe but someone else lost their life and another family has been so deeply hurt.”
Russell’s “courageous wife” and young son should be at the forefront of everyone’s minds.
“I think it is important we go home and hug our kids because there is a little boy who doesn’t have a father and be reminded of our responsibility to those people who love and care for us.”
He said Russell is a hero among many officers who do extraordinary work each day.
“Our people go out there and do extraordinary things each and every day; they put their lives on the line to keep their public, their community safe and that they are willing to put themselves in harm’s way for others.”